CHEYENNE, Wyo. — The Wyoming Department of Education, along with Governor Mark Gordon and the Wyoming Military Department, awarded the state’s first two Purple Star Schools to two Cheyenne schools — Freedom Elementary and McCormick Junior High — at a ceremony at the capitol today.
“I am excited to help launch the Purple Star Schools Program in support of military-connected students as they transition into their new homes and schools here in Wyoming,” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Megan Degenfelder. “Schools like Freedom Elementary and McCormick Junior High prioritize making these students feel instantly welcome and give them valuable support in acclimating into Wyoming.”
The Wyoming Purple Star School Program, in partnership with the Governor’s Challenge, recognizes the efforts of Wyoming K–12 schools that are committed and supportive of military students and families, known as military-connected, as they transition to their new homes and schools.
The program was designed to help with the challenges of high mobility by setting standards of commitment for the school’s award of the military-friendly Purple Star designation.
All Wyoming public and private schools are eligible to apply for the Purple Star School Award.
“This program is essential to helping service members and their families navigate the added challenges they are often presented with,” said Major General Greg Porter, Adjutant General for the Wyoming National Guard. “Despite those challenges, military children are some of the most resilient people I have ever met. We will only see positive things from the schools’ dedication to providing a seamless transition and welcoming atmosphere for military students under this program.”
Both Freedom Elementary and McCormick Junior High School have a continuous focus that welcomes new sons and daughters of military parents. School staff are notified to prepare for and welcome new students.
At Freedom, arriving students are provided an elementary Student-to-Student representative-led school tour and a welcome packet containing relevant information. New students meet with the school counselor to share previous locations, hobbies, and challenges they have faced during school in the past.
At McCormick, new military-connected students are met by members of the current student body, given an informative flier, shown around the building and invited to sit with their peers at lunch. Both schools’ staff continue to ensure that the student is transitioning well.
“Freedom Elementary is honored to receive the distinguished Purple Star award. We have the distinct opportunity to serve students and families at F.E. Warren Air Force Base,” said Freedom Elementary Principal Chad Delbridge. “Freedom Elementary staff are committed and honored to support and respond to the educational and personal challenges that military children and their families face during their transition to a new school and community.”
Freedom Elementary and McCormick Junior High School also support departing students. Freedom students and staff sign names and write positive messages around the borders of a Wyoming map, which is framed and presented to the student to remember the experience at Freedom Elementary, and McCormick students are presented with an autograph book prior to leaving to say goodbye to friends and classmates.
“Being a Purple Star school was a goal for me because so many of our students at McCormick are military-connected children,” said McCormick Principal Tina Troudt. “Their needs, whether it be starting our school mid-year, leaving our school mid-year, or having a deployed parent, are unique and deserve unique support. We are proud of our military-connected students and want them to know we support them and the goals they have for their future.”
With more than 1.1 million military-connected students attending schools, issues of school transition are a high priority for families. The most current data indicate that Wyoming has 2,140 military-connected students in state schools. The frequent relocations required of military personnel mean that, on average, military-connected children move six to nine times between kindergarten and high school graduation.
As they transition between schools, these students must adapt to varying cultures, school populations, curricula, standards, course offerings, schedules, and graduation requirements. As a result, military-connected students often face unique academic and social-emotional challenges. The mission deployment of a student’s parent or parents can also contribute to impactful stress on the student.
Additional information about the Wyoming Purple Star Program and how schools can become Purple Star Schools can be found here.